"beyond Springfield & Moscow"
Alan F. Garratt
Let’s start this chapter with a contemporary account and later add some observations.
Extract from “A brief history of watchmaking” by Heinrich Cannes (Kann).
“In 1900 a new era in watchmaking began. The Ministry of Finance opened an educational institution with a five-year course and two departments: mechanical-optical and watch.
Professor N.B. Zavadsky was instructed to organize the Mechanics and Optics Department, and five years later he was instructed to reorganize the watch school so that it became part of the Mechanics and Optics Department as a special watch department, and the first year of study in both departments was general, both in relation to the teaching of theoretical subjects, and in relation to practical training. Specialization began in the second year.
In those days, the position of the watchmakers of our workers was extremely unenviable, since their labor was paid very low, and the working day exceeded 10 hours. In view of this, it was necessary to give the school such a direction so that graduates would have the opportunity to work in factories in departments where either watch movements were made, or such mechanisms that were close to watch movements in design; training in watch repair was in the background. Such a trend: the manufacture of watches and watch mechanisms, and not their repair, was justified both by the fact that the labor of watchmakers repairing watches was paid meagerly, and by the fact that there was no particular shortage in watchmakers, as well as by the fact that for the organization of future watchmakers factories needed not only watchmakers, but also mechanics with a bias in watchmaking.
To what extent the teaching at school was organized correctly, you can see from the fact that the students of the watch department performed tools and machine tools needed in watchmaking, as well as watches, both with a pendulum and pocket watches, and their work was distinguished by accuracy, strength and grace. , as evidenced by the awards received by the school at exhibitions. The first exhibition in which the watch school took part was the International Exhibition of Watches, Jewelry and Mechanical-Optical Products in 1909 in St. Petersburg.
The significance of the School's successes is evidenced by the fact that in 1913 articles appeared in the Swiss press reproaching Swiss manufacturers for acting unpatriotic, showing their production to Prof. Zavadsky, and this harms themselves: they help him improve the organization of business in the Russian watch school and can, thus, deprive Switzerland of the Russian market.
Unfortunately, our then government turned out to be extremely short-sighted in relation to the role that the Watch School could play for our industry, since in 1913 Zavadsky was denied leave of 40,000 rubles to buy automatic machines for equipping an exemplary pocket watch factory at the School. In this factory, it would be possible to manufacture up to 100 pieces of pocket watches per day by an improved mechanical method, with a small number of workers, which could be a great source of income for the School and, most importantly, give a powerful impetus to the industrial initiative in this direction.
In the first years of the revolution, the position of the School was so difficult that its existence hung in the balance, but with the improvement of the general situation and the material life of the School employees, and also, thanks to the organization of production at the School, it began to revive and, at the present time, turned into an hour section at the College of Precision Mechanics, Optics and Watchmaking.
Since 1922 the School has been transformed into a Technical School, which has a professional technical school of fine mechanics and optics with a watchmaking department. Those who graduate from the College and the School find themselves good places in their specialty. The production workshops at the College carry out large orders for various institutions.
In this respect, the State Trust for Precision Mechanics strongly supports the Technical School, giving large orders for watch movements, watches, electromagnetic and other products.
It should be mentioned that the technical director of the State Trust of Precision Mechanics, comrade engineer Sarkin, a former graduate of the Technical School, organized the production of alarm clocks and clocks under the Trust.
In 1925, after the examination of the Technical School by Glavprofobrom (sic), the board recognized the Technical School of Precision Mechanics and Optics as an all-Union educational institution.
I have allowed myself to allocate so much space to our only one in the entire territory of the USSR. watch school, as the history of this school is 96% the history of watchmaking in our republic.”
In this part of his book Kann sets out his warning to the leadership (see chapter 1917 - 1930) about being complacent in the country.
Kann does not mention the part Wolf Pruss played in the running of the Mono watchmaking school which would be taken over by Tochmekh in 1929. At the time Kann’s books were first published in 1926, Pruss was an active participant in forming the watch industry, although his views clashed with the main stream. Pruss was later discredited, indeed purged by Stalin, a decade after Kann’s book was first published. His omission is strange in view that Kann states that such schools represents 96% of the history of watchmaking.